Microsoft, NZ Telecom to merge portals down under

Microsoft said on Friday it will merge its MSN Internet portal in New Zealand with a local portal and Internet service provider, Xtra Internet, and invest NZ$300 million (US$127 million) in the Web site's owner Telecom Corp. of New Zealand Ltd.

The new portal will be called XtraMSN, incorporating Microsoft's Internet services including Hotmail, MSN Messenger, MSN Communities and MSN Search with the regional news and information Web site. Telecom Corp. will maintain marketing and management responsibilities while Microsoft will lend its technology to the deal.

Microsoft's Web portal in the region is currently managed under a joint venture with Australia's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. called NineMSN, part of Microsoft's global presence, which includes portal sites in 33 countries and 17 languages.

The newly-developed Web site will be launched in August at http://www.xtramsn.co.nz. Until then both MSN and Xtra Internet will maintain their current Web portals.

Also Friday, Telecom Corp. said it would join Hong Kong's Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. in a investment partnership to develop 3G technology in New Zealand and Australia. The companies together will create two spinoffs called Hutchison 3G Australia and Telecom 3G, a New Zealand-based firm.

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